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“I need a man who has his life together and can pay his bills.”

That’s not a jaded divorcée talking. It’s 22-year-old Martina Paillant of Brooklyn, New York.

In a recent interview with The New York Post, Paillant said she was raised in a family of professionals who took handling their money very seriously. “I have no student loans, and I can already take care of myself financially,” said the graduate school student who splits her time between Miami and Brooklyn. “I need a man who can take care of himself, too.”

With 71% of college graduates leaving school with an average of $35,051 in debt, it’s easy to see why Paillant is drawing the line at dating men with bad credit. Though a partner’s or spouse’s student loan debt (or other debt, or even bad credit) wouldn’t affect her credit report, she probably knows she would be on the hook for any debt taken out while married or loans that she co-signs.

Paillant is also likely aware of other collateral damage she may incur. If she and her partner decided to apply for a mortgage together, for instance, lenders would look at both of their credit scores during the application process. Her partner’s not-so-hot credit would result in less favorable terms and conditions, making it harder to finance a home.

Any joint account, too, would appear on Paillant’s credit reports, meaning both would share responsibility.

Building Better Credit 

Though some may bristle at Paillant’s statements, talking with potential spouses about their credit score is a really good idea. After all, positive credit has nothing to do with income but with fiscal responsibility and managing obligations. Going into a relationship without having the “money talk” can lead to problems down the road.

That’s not to say you have to follow suit and swear off potential mates with bad credit, but it’s a good idea for significant others to discuss:

  • What your credit reports say
  • What your respective credit scores are
  • How much debt each of you carry
  • What your combined debts look like
  • Whether you are both spenders or savers

The sooner both of you discuss your personal financial preferences, credit standings, individual spending habits and joint future goals, the sooner you can identify and hopefully avoid major problems.

And, if a partner is intent on building good credit, their standing could certainly improve over time. Using a joint account responsibly, for example, is a great way to beef up credit history — that is, as long as you pay bills on time.

As we’ve written before, good communication is key to any long-term relationship. And when it comes to money, honesty is the best policy if you want to avoid financial infidelity. When taking on debt, it helps to be clear about pros and cons, and how you’ll tackle the problem together.

You can keep an eye on your credit — and any joint accounts — by pulling your credit reports for free each year on AnnualCreditReport.com and viewing your credit scores, updated every 14 days, for free on Credit.com.

Image: Ridofranz

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